This is part of the book “Stéphane Foucart et les néonicotinoïdes. The World and disinformation 1” in which we present one of the information manipulation techniques often used by journalists. All quotes are translated (by me), except the ones marked between [ ] in the french version (french quotes are to numerous to be marked in this one).

Foucart often tends to mobilize serious elements of thoughts, such as a scientific study, and attribute it a unreasonable message. I call this mechanism passing from pragmatic reasoning to hygienist reasoning.

The first type relates to an effect, to a utility: “it has such an effect on this in such circumstances, to prevent it we can do this or that.” On the contrary, hygienist logic tends towards a form of purity: “it is wrong, it must be suppressed, Nature must be purified of it.” S. Foucart often relies on the first to pass the second.

For example, in the article (44), he claims to contradict a study which would have shown that “Low doses of pesticides have little impact” on birds by arguing that “there are several hundred studies published in the scientific literature showing unambiguously the deleterious effects of neonicotinoids on non-target invertebrates”, mammals and birds and that NNIs are extremely concentrated pesticides: one gram of imidacloprid could” kill as many bees as 7.3 kg of DDT ” . (44)

We therefore start from pragmatic and reasonable elements: NNIs have negative effects on non-target organisms and are extremely concentrated pesticides. Then, we are sliding towards a hygienist logic, where only “purity” would count: even at “low doses”, NNIs would be dangerous. The implication here is that the actual exposure dose would not matter.

To make this transition, S. Foucart uses two levers.

  • On the one hand, the vagueness of the term “low dose”. In the sense that the study understands it (Foucart gives too few elements for it to be easily found), this should describe a low dose relative to a precise reference frame, undoubtedly the concentration of NNI found in the fields processed in normal time. We can guess that this refers to the remains of NNI in fields that had been treated in the past and have ceased to be treated. On the contrary, in the sense that S. Foucart understands it, it describes a low dose with regard to a kind of common sense.
  • On the other hand, he mentions the effect of NNIs on non-target populations without specifying the dose. They would not be “toxic at certain doses and under certain conditions” (which studies will show), but absolutely toxic. The notion of dose disappears, we are indeed in a hygienist logic.

Thus, the problem supported by many scientific studies serves as a pivot to sell irrational and hygienist discourse. Metaphorically, it serves as an anvil on which S. Foucart leans to forge his message. You see, this is a very fine machine and difficult to identify.

The distinction between the two concepts still needs to be refined, but it will be the subject of a dedicated book.